Sunday, July 31, 2005

Mendota Beacon Wannabe???

I stumbled upon an article linked off the mainpage of townhall.com called "Not Your Mother's Tupperware Party" and I was surprised to find an article detailing liberalism inside the classroom here at the University of Wisconsin. The editorial featured Dr. Jane Collins of the Women Studies Department 103 and how the class 's message was not only considerably pro-choice but also very representative the entire leftist agenda .

We were merely to digest and regurgitate the indoctrination-heavy suggestion that the words "reproductive rights" and "abortion" are synonomous.

Political legislation regarding abortion grossly misrepresented on a final exam, we were told of the evils of the American health care system, and were taught to regard the birth control pill as manna from heaven.

The author's experience hits home with me as well as many others throughout the university who study the social sciences and humanities yet feel class material, readings, and professors are excessively biased, especially on the left. My classes have not been slanted in terms of reproductive policy but much more towards economic and environmental politics. I encourage everyone to check out the article:


My biggest surprise was that the article was written by none other than Mac Verstandig, editor of the Badger Herald. The funny thing was though that the article said he wrote for The Mendota Beacon. When has Mac ever written for the Beacon...lol. I'm sure everyone on the Beacon Staff will get a kick out of this. Congrats go out though to Mac for writing a fantastic article about the excessive bias in the UW classroom.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Have Faith in John

Yesterday was filled with mixed emotions as stories were coming out first about Edith Clement and then at around 7:00 seeing the headlines about John Roberts being chosen. I was kind of disappointed by Edith Clement’s mixed record and her comments on previous court decisions. Glued to the TV and internet for most of the day, I was fairly surprised when Bush chose Roberts contrary to the buzz about it being a woman from the 5th circuit court. After listening to the commentary and perusing the blogs, I am certain that Roberts will be an excellent justice and will follow the Constitution instead of interpreting cases in a more liberal manner. Here are a number of reasons why I am excited about his future tenure on the bench and why he was an excellent choice:

1. Roberts seems to be a strong man of intelligence and integrity and will not waver from his conservative roots. From his previous decisions and litigation it seems clear that he will not follow in the footsteps of Kennedy or Souter. The Bush Administration has much more knowledge than the public does about Roberts through people like Kenneth Starr (who Roberts worked with closely), through privileged government documents that he wrote himself when he was a government lawyer, and of course his private meetings with the individual. Though there is little of a paper trail on Roberts, I feel that we should have confidence in Bush’s assessment and in his previous statements that he would choose someone in the mold of Scalia or Thomas.

2. While the jury is out on whether Roberts would overturn Roe v. Wade, it is fairly clear that he will be a pro-life judge. One positive sign is that he has advocated for President HW Bush against Roe v. Wade. He was a lawyer for the administration and had to argue against the court decision yet this is one good sign. The second positive sign is that he said in his address, "I also want to acknowledge my children, my daughter, Josie, my son, Jack, who remind me every day why it's so important for us to work to preserve the institutions of our democracy". This statement becomes more meaningful when you realize that his children are adopted and gives evidence to his respect for life. One last positive sign is that he is married to the former Executive Vice President of the group Feminists for Life. One possibly negative sign is that during his confirmation hearing for the DC Appeals Court he commented “that Roe v Wade was settled law”. The fact is however that as an appeals court justice, you are required to uphold decisions of the Supreme Court. In making this statement then, he does not say that he agrees with Roe v Wade but simply that he will uphold the decision by law. When you are a Supreme Court justice however, you not only interpret law but make law so who knows whether he agrees with the Roe v Wade precedent or not. I think it is fairly safe to say though that in most cases heard he will air on the side of life.

3. Roberts is extremely confirmable with support from lawyers on both sides of the aisle. A series of quotes an article online illustrate this (http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1108389946956):

E. Barrett Prettyman Jr., a longtime Roberts fan and lifelong Democrat who worked with him for years at Hogan, says that if anyone can be both judicious and predictable, Roberts can. "He respects the Court greatly, and would not ignore precedent," says Prettyman. "But if there's a loophole or a distinguishing factor, he'd find it."

Another person who might otherwise be a critic of Roberts is a longtime friend. Georgetown University Law Center professor Richard Lazarus, an environmental law advocate, was a classmate of Roberts at Harvard Law School and roomed with him when they first came to Washington 25 years ago. "John Roberts and I are very good friends, and I think very highly of him as a person, lawyer and judge," says Lazarus with care. "After that, I have to bow out."

Mark Levin, author of "Men in Black," a new conservative critique of the Supreme Court, sees no conflict and is a fan of Roberts. "In the short period he has been on the court, John Roberts has shown he does not bring a personal agenda to his work. He follows the Constitution, and he is excellent."

Roberts is respected by and gets along with liberal lawyers which proves that he is not ideologically combative, is open-minded, and is respectful. A man who is undoubtedly considerate, writes decisions based on facts instead of ideology, and consistently fair, it will be hard for the Democrats to criticize and attack his character and record. The lack of paper trail and short record on the appeals circuit also plays in to his favor. If the Roberts was an ideologue, had a long record, and was criticized by many inside the Beltway, there would be a long and hard fight with a possible filibuster. However, the cards are clearly in his favor.

I and many others are very thankful that Bush picked a conservative and yet confirmable nominee. This selection for the Supreme Court and his future selections were of upmost importance to me as a voter as well as to much of Bush’s conservative base. After the questionable Iraq War, large increases in government (education, health care), and lowering of environmental standards, I can feel like I still got my moneys worth on my vote (even though I live in WI) due to the excellent appointees he will continue to nominate. I have faith that he will be an excellent judge for decades to come and will provide intelligence, leadership, and originalist ideals to the court. Who knows, maybe we’ll even get Janice Rogers Brown when Rehnquist steps down….won’t those hearings be hilarious….would anarchy occur both on Capital Hill and Bascom Hill…we’ll wait and see.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Washington DC: Where my Final Resting Places Lies

When you step inside the Beltway, you step amongst the institutions and people of power. I learned that early when I ate my first meal at the National Student Leadership Conference in the summer after my junior year of high school (2001). I had just gotten on to the campus that Sunday evening before many of the conference attendees arrived. I sat down with my bowl of cereal and began to ate. Three or four others joined me after a few minutes and one of the girls looked very familiar. It was in fact Christy Romano of the famous Disney Channel Show “Even Stevens”. So talk about weird and inherently awkward. I asked the guy across from me when she left if he knew who she was. He had no clue. I can’t remember what I said to her but it was clear the rest of the week that I was there that she definitely thought she was “the shit”. Who would have known that Hollywood had invaded Washington. Others at the conference were not famous TV actors or actresses but they boys and girls of privilege from across the country and the world. The main demographic were sons and daughters of wealthy doctors, lawyers, and businessman who had the parents that would fit the $3,000 dollar bill for the conference. The experience was amazing in that not only do they have a wealth of experiences and knowledge (meaning many of them had traveled a lot and attended strong schools) but that they cared about what was going on in the world and could easily converse for hours about it. I was on that campus with future political, business, and societal leaders that will shape the country in the future. Years later I would return back and be blessed with an even more amazing experience in the summer of 2004.
After getting my acceptance into the JPSM Junior Fellows Program, I was ecstatic about getting to live in Washington for the summer for free and experience the city in whole new way. Getting located at George Washington University near Georgetown, the Mall, Dupont Circle, Rock Creek Park, etc. put me right in the heart of the city with hundreds of other interns. Throughout those 3 months last summer, I made many great friends from throughout the country including Ron, JPSM buddies (Steve, Hardcore, Gerry, Paul, others), Grant, and many others. Some of my most interesting conversations were not with my friends but with random people I talked to on the subway, at a party, or random interns and citizens I met through playing ultimate Frisbee. The greatest thing about DC is the diversity of the people whether that be geographic, ethnic, or political and their obsession about making an impact on our society. In one instant I may be hanging out at a Regan appointed Mormon circuit court judge’s home in Virginia and the next night I may be drinking beer at a row house downtown with a bunch of bureaucrats discussing urban planning policy. The amount of intelligent and interesting people doing intriguing and exciting work is infinite in the DC Metro Area.
Spend enough time in Washington DC and you’ll bump into senators, make connections with popular writers, and surely get a better taste at how diverse and exciting the United State people are. While the city may not be the most beautiful place to live, have the nicest weather, or have the glamorous appeal of say NYC, Miami, or San Francisco, the area stands out to me because of its diversity of people, its political and powerful connections, and its host of athletic, cultural, and intellectual opportunities. It may not be where I end up next year, in 10 years, or by the time I’m 50 years old, but I intend to spend my final days in Washington……

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Systematically Dissecting Unions: Introduction

A creation of the 19th century and industrialization in the Western World, unions in the United States and Europe have been negotiating with business for the rights of workers for over 150 years now. Unions emerged when workers often faced long days (often 12 to 16 hours) and were subject to unsafe work conditions. These collective institutions pushed for major reform in the areas of child labor, workweeks, and vacation time which helped the average worker. While unions did provide an important intermediary between business and labor and were instrumental in lobbying for a number of pieces of legislation, their subsistence has led to interference in the labor and economic markets, a culture of laziness (for certain union members), increased capital mobility, and inherent inefficiency. In an era of increasing technology, soft intellectual labor, and fairly strict government labor laws, the question is whether unions in industrialized nations such as the US have outlived their primary societal functions and need for existence? The quick answer is “yes” which will be reflected in the rest of the series.

Next: Interference in the Labor and Economic Markets

Monday, July 04, 2005

The Potential Power of Kelo vs. New London

The issues involving eminent domain have consistently placed government and public planners versus private property holders over what kind of power the government has and should have in acquiring land for redevelopment, public infrastructure, and parks/open space. In the constitution, the 5th Amendment reads in part "[N]or shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” Throughout most of America’s history this meant large public works projects such as utilities for the Tennessee Valley Authority or the US interstate highway system. In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled in Berman vs. Parker private projects meet the definition if they have a “public purpose” which in this decision meant urban renewal. This last month, the Supreme Court ruled in Kelo vs. New London that “public use” includes the acquisition of property for economic development. In the case, 5 households refused to sell their property to the city of New London, Connecticut The ruling extends government power to not only use eminent domain in acquiring property for roads, parks, and urban renewal but for any project that could bring in more revenue such as a hotel, apartment building, or industrial plant. How and how often local and state governments will act in obtaining property for redevelopment using this decision is a mystery for now but likely citizens and property lawyers will continue to battle municipalities for their home and land. A number of specific issues revolving around this ruling and eminent domain in general need to be addressed.

1. Full Compensation of Property Owners
If municipal governments are going to take property for public uses or especially for economic development, owners deserve more than appraised value of their property. The summation of the costs and stresses of moving, finding or building a new home and existential value warrant property owners high compensation for their property. In my opinion, 125 to 150% of the appraisal value should be the least the government can do to accommodate its displaced citizens.

2. Government’s Free-Reign on Transfer of Property
The ruling essentially allows government to be able to transfer property from one owner to another no matter who these 2 owners are. Judge O’Connor spoke in dissention, "the specter of condemnation hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory." Should there be limits and constraints on what types of transfers between land uses and densities can occur? The open ended ruling the court gives does not prohibit specific government transfers so in essence the state could take your house and let someone else build a bigger house on your lot. Not a retail store, apartment building or industrial plant but simply a bigger house that would provide more tax revenue to the government. There needs to be limits to the transferring of property.

3. Will the Government Use the Ruling for Good?
Historically when developers have tried to redevelop certain urban areas, acquiring properties has been a very difficult task. Often homeowners will hold out for purely selfish interest and will not see benefit of denser residential structures, new office buildings, or other large real estate projects. Individuals thus can inhibit progress by holding land that is needed for the city to function and expand intelligently. In these cases, municipal governments will now be able to use the power of Kelo vs. New London in order to obtain land to densify and redevelop specific urban areas. With the ruling, there is also the possibility for corruption and greed within the government. For instance, certain powerful individuals may be able to manipulate and use the government to obtain land for their own personal benefit and agenda.

These and a number of other issues will be addressed in future court decisions. Time will tell whether this ruling will stand and how municipalities and states will use the ruling.